Wednesday, December 15, 2010

one pink feather

It was all that remained from Friday's celebration: a small feather, shed from a long, pink boa. I watched the feather lift and lilt as people walked by.  It was there yesterday, too, in the same place, in the middle of the circle. I had forgotten to pick it up then, but I would remember today. The feather was important.

The boa had been part of a kitschy ensemble given to the birthday girl, along with a jeweled, silver plastic tiara and a pink battery-operated magic wand - the stuff of childhood pageantry. A friend had presented it to the celebrant, who wore it proudly throughout the meeting.  Every now and then, she would solemnly point the wand at someone in approval, and the wand would obediently blink and flash and make proper magical sounds.

The birthday girl: One year clean and sober, at last. It had taken much longer than a year, as it often does. I admired her grit but I confess I had wondered if she would pull it off. Fortunately she had her own higher power on which to rely, so my opinion was irrelevant. 

She was a star. No, that's not quite right. She was a Star, capitalized, and well-deserved, too. Bigger than life, brash and brilliant, with a quick wit and a delicious sense of humor. And although she had surrendered an illustrious, high-profile career to drugs and alcohol, she carried herself elegantly, dressed always in the extravagant designer clothes she hadn't yet had to sell in order to survive.

Some of us felt that she needed to dial it down. Way, way down. We told her she should stop wearing the fancy jewelry, and trade in the patent leather spike heels for sensible bus-riding shoes more suitable to her current social station.  She tried to conform, and then she didn't. 

Finally, she found a sponsor who understood what we hadn't: Yes, she needed to get humble. But true humility means making peace with every part of yourself, even the parts that are most glorious.  We had missed the point entirely: we thought she needed to learn that she wasn’t “all that.” Instead, she needed to learn that she's all that and more. And the lesson would come only after forgiving herself for all the missed opportunities. Once she could forgive, she would be able to tap the vast wealth of talent and experience that was still safe and sound within her, albeit a little roughed up.

The meeting discussion ended, and  I watched as the celebrant and her sponsor stood up. Beaming, he presented her with the one-year chip. As she sat down to wild applause, I thought of Marianne Williamson’s oft-quoted words:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure… We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. … We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
 We circled up to say the Serenity Prayer at the end of the meeting, and then we all broke into a lusty chorus of “Happy Birthday.” I sang, and I watched that single pink feather float to the floor.


  1. Anonymous10:46 PM

    This is beautiful. Truly. That's the good stuff.

  2. I have had a partner who was in recovery for 25+ years. She did not chat about the meetings nor share the celebrations. When I read your post, found through a Magpie excursion, I was initially enamored with the picture alone. Then as I read, I found myself identifying with the woman. Although I am not in her same situation, recovery, I still found kinship. For me, it is being a femme in a lesbian world. Oftentimes I feel like that pink feather, left behind after a celebration.

  3. What a gorgeous post. And there is a lot of sobriety packed into these words. The struggle between ego and pride and, well, those of us who are a bit flamboyant know this debate.

    Wear the boa! Wear the heels!